DON’T REALLY fancy an M5? Or, more likely, can’t afford one, can’t stomach the waiting list or need the versatility of an estate? Then give one of these a go
Well, maybe the 362bhp 550i at least, which has just replaced the (333bhp) 545i in BMW’s range and is less than 40bhp shy of the M-Sport car (before you press the Power button).
Advantages? It’s quite fast enough, the 4.8-litre V8 doesn’t sound like a diesel at idle, and you can have a normal six-speed manual or proper automatic gearbox (£1450), rather than the best-of-neither-world automated manual of the M-car. And, at £43,550 in SE trim (£45,750 in natty M-Sport form, which adds aluminium and Alcantara to the inside, a bodykit and ride-stuffing 18-inch alloys to the outside), it’s usefully cheaper. Plus, for an extra £2025, you can get an estate.
Disadvantages? Well, let’s not kid ourselves, this does not deliver the astonishment, involvement or cross-country rapidity of the M5. But it’s still good fun: reasonably agile and nimble, with responsive steering and high grip levels.
It’s also extremely refined: very quiet and with a remarkably comfortable cabin. The engine’s a corker, too, with decent pull even from low revs and a broad powerband. It is also hushed when cruising, and pleasingly growly on full throttle.